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Ice Hiking in British Columbia 6

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(This is a 60 year old publisher’s publicity photo. Left, Laurette Stanton, right, Jim Stanton. In the middle, Beth Day who flew up to the cabin at the head of Knight Inlet four years after we were there, heard many of the same stories the Stantons had told us, and wrote a successful book still much loved by Canadians: Grizzlies in Their Backyard)

Jim and Laurette Stanton were one of the very few city couples who went off to live deep in the Canadian wilderness and actually made a go of it. They lived off the land as much as they could. Jim's cash crop was grizzly bears.

Larry had visited them two years before. They were delighted to see us. We mentioned our relief at finally nearing our goal, which was to go up and spend a couple of weeks on the great glaciers. Looks of concern immediately came over their faces. "I hate to tell you this," Jim said, “but we've had a drought. There's a fire closure. All logging operations are shut down and nobody can go into the woods."

Drought? Fire closure? I looked out at the BC landscape. To a Californian, the thought that this wet green forest could burn was ludicrous.

Jim consoled us. "It can't go on much longer." he said. "It's bound to rain any day now. Unfortunately I'm the fire marshall for this sector and I need to get your promise that you won't take off before the closure is lifted."

So for the next four days we waited at Stanton's, and the best story telling team in all of Canada entertained us with tales of their 35 years in the woods.

Now that he was 70 years old, Jim was finally getting recognition from all except the college professors as the foremost expert on grizzly bears. Each year he guided just four elite hunting trips. He offered the chance for huge trophy grizzlies, old males he selected that were no longer much involved in the gene pool. He had a devoted following of millionaires who were competent shots and were willing to come back year after year in search of a trophy grizzly, without killing lesser animals.

With no government backing Jim was successfully managing the bear population of the Kliniklini/Franklin River region. He made sure no unethical hunters trespassed on his guide permit. He had names for all the resident grizzlies, great affection for some, could recognize the tracks of each. He kept up with new cubs and even strange bears who were just passing through. In an era when grizzlies were being seriously overhunted, his bears prospered. They still do. The place is famous for grizzlies today.

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Story Copyright
03/22/17